Thursday, July 25, 2024

“Had A Chat With Myself, Didn’t Deserve To Be Trolled”: Riyan Parag On Social Media Hate, Abuse

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Ahead of his debut series with Team India, all-rounder and Rajasthan Royals (RR) star Riyan Parag, who is the first-ever player from his state of Assam to have received a national side call-up, said that through his international career for India, he wants to set up a roadmap for people of his state to dream big and play for their country. The first match of the five-game series against Zimbabwe will be played on July 6 at the Harare Sports Club. The last T20I will be played on July 14 at the same venue, which will host all five games.

The squad features just two players from the main squad for the T20 World Cup: Yashasvi Jaiswal and Sanju Samson. The rest of the squad who are part of T20 WC has been rested. Promising young players who have proven themselves in the Indian Premier League and domestic arena over the past 12 months have received multiple call-ups from India.

Speaking to the ESPNCricinfo ahead of the series, Parag said that he feels that people from his state limit themselves from thinking big.

“I would like to change that. I am not there [an international player] yet. I want to play for the country. Once I do, then people know they can have a pathway, a road map from one of their very own who got there. Now I have played in the IPL and there is realisation from the people that even if you are from a small state like Assam, you can get to that level. But the thing is, the IPL cannot be that big a goal. You can play for one year and fade away. But when I play for the country, when I make it to the country, I think that is when the actual road map will be set. They do not have to really follow it. They can have their own versions of it.”

On his breakthrough IPL season this year, Parag said that during the 2023 season, head coach and director of cricket Kumar Sangakkara told him to work harder to come back and perform and three poor IPL seasons made him doubt himself.

“But over the years, I have always been very big on finding and fixing solutions myself, so I was not speaking to anyone actually. I was just trying to figure out what went wrong,” he continued.

“Why was I getting so much hate? Why was I getting negative energy from all the people except those from the Royals set-up? I tried to understand my game. And once I started doing that, I got this sudden love for getting into cricket a lot. I was never a big cricket geek, but today I like watching videos, analysing my game, comparing certain elements of my batting to someone that does some things better, and learning from it,” he concluded.

On batting at number four throughout the season, Parag said that he did not feel that he was doing justice to himself at number six and seven, but he was also not trying to make excuses for his poor performances down the order.

“I got to know just after the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy that I would bat at four in the IPL. I was batting there for Assam, so I had a fair idea of how to go about it, whether it is 0 for 2 or 100 for 2. So yeah, No. 4 was very easy to accept, but then going out there and implementing it and getting results out of it – that is the difference,” he added.

After years of underperformance down the order, Riyan was promoted to number four this season by the Rajasthan Royals (RR) management, and he repaid them back with 573 runs in 16 matches at an average of 52.09, the strike rate of over 149 and four half-centuries. His best score was 84*. His consistent batting was one of the key reasons behind RR’s qualification to the playoffs.

This came after his fine performances in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, where he scored 510 runs in 10 games at an average of 85.00 and a strike rate of 182.79, with seven half-centuries. His best score was 76*.

On the work he put in for his breakthrough IPL, Parag said that he went out of his comfort zone.

“I went to the Rajasthan Royals Academy immediately after the [2023] IPL. It is hot, 45 degrees or something, and I would do three sessions a day, every day, for a month. It takes a lot of dedication to just go there, because it is a tough place, tough conditions, but then you have just got to get your work done, right? That has to come from within. That is what helped me, because I wanted to improve. I wanted to know more about my game, I wanted to plan different scenarios,” he continued.

“Because I have been lost inside those 22 yards way too many times. I have been lost for options for what I needed to do in certain situations. I think once you go through all those phases, you understand that you need to have at least two to three options for every single ball. And for that, you need to practise. Those practices take a lot of time, but eventually, when you do it for a consistent period, I think it works out pretty well,” he concluded his point.

Parag said that he made some really hard choices for himself to make a comeback, in order to stay at his peak fitness-wise.

“Food is a big factor. I like my food, but I cannot really eat whatever I want. Sleep is another factor. I cannot go out or stay up late. These are the general things I have been working on to upgrade myself. Those are choices but good choices for me,” he added.

On his new-found maturity and better batting form in IPL, Parag said that it came out of pain.

“There are millions watching the IPL. When I do not perform, I feel terrible. And people add to it. Opinions from fans add to it. Opinions from great players add to it. So I just had to figure out what really mattered. Once I did, I think it turned out well. Me not performing, me feeling sad, me being left out of the team, me being abused by people, me coming back to my house knowing my dad and mom were expecting something, even though they do not say it – I think that was pain. I did not tell anyone. And I think that is how you mature,” he added.

“It is not about the age. It is that pain. And only after going through all this, I realised, “Okay, I cannot suffer through this. I am going out there to perform. Everyone has high expectations, but I have had to figure out what expectations work for me. The last year has been about working through all of this,” he concluded his point.

Parag said that with regards to online trolling and abuse, he decided to shut down all the noise after last year realising that he could not change someone’s opinion of him.

“And how I look at life is not how someone else is going to look at it. If I see something that is going on with a person but if I don’t know what they are going through, I do not really share my opinion on it. But that is not how everyone sees it. Social media nowadays, even if you try to avoid it, you cannot, to be honest. Because if you open Instagram, you will just see something like that. You can just scroll [past] it, but there will be a thousand other posts. So you cannot really not see it. So I was just like, I might as well not open Instagram because I do not need it.”

“It is not easy. But then again, after last year, I had a chat with myself. And this sort of a comeback is personal because I had to put up with stuff I did not really deserve. Maybe I have lacked in preparation, maybe I have lacked in a few things, but then I have always put my best foot forward. I thought I did not deserve all the trolling, but what could I do? People are going to say things regardless. Last year they said I was not good enough to play in the IPL. Now they want me in the Indian team. So people change, just like a switch,” he concluded his point.

Parag credited Sangakkara for making things easier for him as he was easy to approach.

“I always went to him, spoke about cricket, spoke about life, spoke about golf and a lot of things. It has been really great working with him in the last three-four years. He is very open to suggestions. He is very keen on how you’re developing your game even beyond the IPL, for the ten months where no one is watching you. He is still checking on you, on what you are doing, how you are playing. It has been great working with him. He is a legend, but then he is a great human being too,” he added.

On his relationship with RR skipper Sanju Samson, Parag said that they both are very close and have become much closer because of how he asked Parag to be a part of the leadership group during the games.

“I looked out for him, I had to speak to bowlers, talk about fields and communicate with him. So I got a lot of [time in] charge this season, which made me feel really nice because the captain had faith in me to talk to the bowlers, change fields if required, bowl certain bowlers in high-pressure situations.”

“I think we have gotten really close in the last six years. Sanju bhaiyya is one of the best batters currently. I also believe his wicketkeeping goes unnoticed. On the field you can learn a lot from him – the way he handles himself even when he is angry, the way he handles himself after we have lost the game, all that is really commendable. That is how we get confidence from the captain, because you do not want a captain who is just shouting and showing his emotions. He keeps his emotions to himself, speaks to everyone normally after we have won or lost a game. I think those are the things that make him a really great captain,” he signed off.

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